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3 Steps to Accelerate Sustainable Ocean Transformation in Indonesia

In December 2020, Indonesia signed its commitment to transformation towards a sustainable ocean economy (hereinafter Transformation). Indonesia is a member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) along with 13 other countries, which together cover jurisdiction over nearly 40 percent of the world's coastlines.

The commitment targets the sustainable management of 100 percent of ocean within the national jurisdiction of the 14 member states of the Ocean Panel, including Indonesia (known as the 100% Approach) by 2025 – with a focus on a synergy between economic production, equitable welfare and marine and coastal ecosystems conservation. This commitment is realized through five components: ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean finance and ocean knowledge.

A sustainable ocean economy offers great returns. A World Resources Institute (WRI) study shows that in 30 years, sustainable seafood management has a 10:1 benefit-cost ratio. This means that every US dollar invested in improving sustainable sea-based protein management will yield US$10 in benefit. The same study estimates 88:1 and 2:1 benefit-cost ratio for mangrove conservation and restoration respectively.

To fully achieve these benefits, Indonesia has many challenges to overcome. Nearly half of wild fisheries stocks are over-exploited, while illegal fishing vessels roam free in Indonesian waters. Meanwhile, around 600 thousand hectares of Indonesia’s mangroves are in critical condition. For a 100 percent sustainable ocean management transformation in Indonesia within the targeted timeline, at least three steps need to be considered.

First, integrating transformation efforts with existing programs and policies. Some of these transformation areas have been implemented in the country. Concerning ocean health, Indonesia has sought to restore up to 600 thousand hectares of mangroves, restore coral reefs in Bali and the Coral Triangle and deal with marine debris. In relation to ocean wealth, Indonesia has established a Task Force to eradicate illegal fishing and develop Marine Tourism Villages to promote a coastal-tourism-based economy. A number of national policies on the marine sector have also been established, including the Indonesian Marine Policy (KKI) and the 2020-2024 National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN).

To achieve this transformation commitment, Indonesia can bridge the gap between existing programs or policies and the targeted outcomes of this commitment. Concerning ocean knowledge, for example, the country needs to develop and implement a marine and coastal natural capital accounting system, which is currently unavailable in Indonesia. The accounting system has the potential to serve as a medium to measure value and impact on marine and coastal ecosystems in the development policy process. In relation to ocean health, in addition to covering primary mangrove ecosystem in the moratorium on primary natural forests and peatlands, Indonesia could consider elevating the protection of mangrove ecosystems, including secondary mangrove forests, in consideration of the transformation priority in relation to avoiding the net loss of mangrove ecosystems, threats to mangrove sustainability and the sizeable carbon stocks in secondary mangroves.

Second, funding transformation implementation. Given that the deadline set by Indonesia for these goals is nearing (by 2025), clarity regarding the required budget is needed. This requires innovative funding schemes, given the large fiscal absorption in the effort to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A priority action related to funding for Indonesia is strengthening blended finance capacity from the public and private sectors, development assistance and philanthropic sources. An alternative is for Indonesia to maximize contribution from Retail State Bonds (ORI) for the rehabilitation and sustainability of coastal ecosystems. In addition, Indonesia may consider the debt-for-nature swap option, where debt relief may be requested for the financing of environmental preservation activities, including marine and coastal ecosystems. A similar option was implemented for the conservation of Sumatran forests.

Third, cross-sector stakeholder participation and synergy. The transformation document states that the transformation process must encourage cross-sectoral innovation on technology, governance and finance. Thus, cross-sectoral planning and implementation synergy in Indonesia are crucial.

To that end, regulations are needed to push cross-sectoral commitment and synergy forward. In the context of current cross-sectoral mangrove management in Indonesia, an example is the Decree of the Minister of National Development Planning No. 89/2020 on the Establishment of a Strategic Coordination Team for Wetland Management. The decree sets a clear goal for the regulation, which is the drafting of wetland ecosystem (peat and mangrove) management strategy and roadmap within 12 months. This regulations shows that a clear goal is needed in the implementation of cross-sectoral transformation.

The marine sector is one of the key sectors in Indonesia’s effort to meet its development goals and national climate targets. The transformation commitment can be a momentum for Indonesia to ensure the sustainable management of all national coastal and marine ecosystems in the years to come.

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